Friday, January 8, 2010

Jesus' death in John and the Day of Atonement.

More on my reading of John.

John emphasizes that Jesus' death was a fulfillment of the day of atonement in Leviticus 16. A couple of different things suggest this. First, Jesus dies between two others, one on his left and right. This is highly reminiscent of the two angels on the ark of the covenant. Jesus is, in effect, the blood of the second goat being place on the mercy seat. He is also the scapegoat which was cast out of the city as I noted in an earlier post. This pattern of being placed between two angels is also repeated in the tomb scene. When the tomb is entered, two angels are at the left and right of where his body lay. This symbolism was noticed by a significant number of Patristic authors. It also connects well with the Paul's remark in Romans that Jesus has become "our mercy seat." That is, the place on top of the ark of the covenant where the blood was placed on the day of atonement. It is also the place where YHWH was enthroned and hidden under a cloud of incense which the High Priest is supposed to light on fire when he enters the Holy of Holies. His glory is therefore hidden sub contrario. Jesus also calls his death in John "being lifted up" and "being glorified"- that is, an enthronement. This makes sense because it is a means of him casting out the "ruler of this world." So, just as the cover the ark was the place where God's glory was both concealed and propitiated by blood, so the cross is also.
This symbolism is futhered by the term used for Jesus' seamless garment: "kiton." This is the term used for the High Priest's garment on the day of atonement in the LXX version of Leviticus 16. So, from this all this, we can surmise that John views Jesus as the true sacrifice, High Priest, and divine presence (kavod).

2 comments:

  1. of course these things are the tip of the iceberg for temple/priest christology in John. I enjoyed your notes here as I have much to learn on the subject. One connection which has gotten very little attention is between John 6:51-59 (or so) and Leviticus 17:10-16. Usually the discussion about the eucharist in John, especially in John 6 so overshadows the discussion that the connection between drinking the blood of Jesus and drinking the life-blood of the atonement sacrifices are overlooked...

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  2. George and Colleen, You are correct regarding the Priest/Temple Christology in John. I discuss at length the parallel between the scene in the garden and the liturgy of the Day of Atonement in the Mishnah in the lost chapter of my dissertation. Notably, the HIgh Priest says the Divine Name 3 times and the congregation falls on their faces. Jesus says "I AM he" 3 times and the same thing happens. It gets even more interesting when you note that the Mt. of Olives (base of which Jesus is at) is where the Divine Kavob/Name rests in Ezekiel 9 when it leaves the Temple. So, Jesus is in the real Temple, doing the real liturgy of the Day of Atonement. Again, just the tip of the Iceberg!

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